Hearthstone vs Eternal

Hearthstone vs Eternal

Last week, I tried out another digital card game, Eternal. In the vein of my last similar post, comparing Hearthstone with Shadowverse,  I will now try to do the same and compare Hearthstone with Eternal. The goal of this post is to expose players of Hearthstone and other digital card games to Eternal, if they are hesitant to starting the game. As mentioned, I just started playing Eternal, so I am likely covering very basic things, and nothing advanced in Eternal.

What is Eternal?

Eternal is a digital card game, released in November 2016 by Dire Wolf Digital, maker of other games like TES: Legends, and the Pokemon Trading Card Game Online. Dire Wolf Digital states on Twitter that it is an “independent game studio,” so they actually are a small indie company.

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The real comparison

I’ll be honest, there are a lot of fundamental differences between Hearthstone and Eternal. It is a bit like when Gwent first hit the scene, and a lot of people want to pit the games together or were taking sides. They are very different games.

The same applies here, Eternal is a bit different because it employs the blocking mechanic. Coupled with resource generation through colored cards, the natural comparison to Eternal should be Magic the Gathering. A longer time ago, I compared Hearthstone with Magic Duels. Magic Duels has since become derelict content-wise. If I knew more about Magic, I could do something deeper. But Hearthstone is what I have played longer, and can make more points with.

Key differences between the games

Class identity

  • Hearthstone has 9 different classes, distinguished by class cards and the 2-mana cost Hero Power. A deck is made up of class cards and neutrals.
  • Eternal is more like Magic, as there are 5 colors/classes, with multicolor/class cards, and colorless cards. You can play a deck with just 1 color/class or all of them. The hero you use is just a chosen avatar of a card, and has no special abilities or bearing on gameplay.
    • Fire (Red) – Aggressive color with cheap cards, and damage dealing. Has themes of machines, Western outlaws, and fire.
    • Justice (Green) – The Paladin class, with big buffs and weapons. Has themes of knights, honor, and armor.
    • Tribal (Blue) – Elemental energy class, specifically focusing on lightning and ice. Has themes of Shamanism, flyers, and animals.
    • Shadow (Purple) – Your dark magic class, with life drain and resurrection effects. Has themes cultists, witches, and all-purpose bad guys.
    • Time (Yellow) – A somewhat unique class that manipulates time, bounces stuff and silences stuff. Has themes of the Middle East, elementals, and mystique.
    • Strangers (Multicolor) – Multicolor cards are typically called Strangers, as they don’t belong to a faction. They are typically better than your regular one-color card, but don’t fit in unless you’ve built your deck that way.

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Resource regeneration

  • In Hearthstone, you gain 1 mana crystal each turn.
  • In Eternal, you play Sigils, which are basically Lands in Magic. Your Sigils either are 1 of the 5 colors, or are multicolored. Your opening hand Sigil to card balance is big in determining how the game will go.

Blocking mechanic

  • In Hearthstone, your taunt minions are the closest thing to blocking, but it is always mandatory. Every attack has an option to hit into a minion or the opposing hero.
  • In Eternal, your units are going face automatically, when you declare an attack. Your opponent then selects their units, which would block attacks from your units. Blocking is incredibly strategic, as you can assign anywhere from none to all of your units to block. Additionally, multiple units can block one unit. This blocking mechanic is almost identical to Magic the Gathering.

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Unit healing and exhaustion

  • The counterpart of having a blocking mechanic is exhaustion. If your unit attacks one turn, it cannot be used to block during your opponent’s move for offense.
  • Also, units in Eternal heal themselves after the end of a turn.

Weapons

  • In Hearthstone, weapons are equipped to the hero. They have an attack and durability. During your turn, the weapon is unsheathed, and can use a charge. On your opponent’s turn, the weapon is sheathed and cannot be activated (except for Misdirection situations). Weapons can attack hero or minion.
  • In Eternal, “Relic Weapons” are the hero weapon, while regular “Weapon” are buffs for units. Relic Weapon come with an attack and durability, except the durability is considered armor, which can be destroyed, rendering the weapon broken. Attacking into a unit, or getting hit by a unit will degrade the weapon. Relic weapons must attack units before the enemy hero. Weapon enchantments for units are basically spells, and don’t really have a durability factor.

Secrets are more secret

  • In Hearthstone, 3 classes have secrets, which are set with your turn mana.
  • In Eternal, “Fast Spells,” are like Instants, which can be activated from the hand. These combat tricks either affect units, deal damage, or negate activations. You must have leftover energy to play a fast spell. So having leftover energy could either mean you can’t afford stuff from the hand, saving something for later, or are setting up a fast spell.

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Bouncing is less effective

  • In Hearthstone, returning a minion to the hand or deck will remove all buffs granted to the card.
  • In Eternal, units retain all of their buffs forever.

New keywords

  • Some keywords just exist since Eternal is a blocking game. Endurance is a keyword that lets a unit not be exhausted after attacking. Flying exists, which makes a unit only blockable by other flyers.
  • There are a few other keywords that exist in Eternal. Aegis is a shield that allows a unit protection from 1 spell/unit targeted effect. Infiltrate is an ability/effect that occurs when a unit attacks the hero for the first time. Killer is an ability that lets a unit apply damage to an enemy unit, without attacking. Quickdraw is a conditional ability that lets a unit kill another enemy unit without losing health. Destiny allows a unit to be played for free when it is drawn, and allow another draw.

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Game modes

  • Hearthstone’s Ranked system has the ranked floors for every 5 ranks, and then Legend. You move up and down stars between each tier.
  • Eternal’s Ranked system is more like that of other digital card games, where you move up and down a points bar, and you get promoted after filling the bar. Compared to Shadowverse though, losses are more punishing in Eternal.
  • Eternal has a Gauntlet mode, which now makes sense, given it is the same company that made TES: Legends. But you play a constructed deck in an elimination mode against 7 enemies.
  • Hearthstone has Arena, where you draft 30 picks, picking 1 out of 3 cards each time. You play until you get 12 wins or 3 losses.
  • Eternal has two limited modes, Forge for PvE, and Draft for PvP. Both end at 7 wins or 2 losses. Forge is more similar to Hearthstone arena, in that you draft 25 cards, and 1 out of 3 cards. You are limited to 2 classes/colors, which are picked from your first picks in the draft.
  • PvP Draft mode is unique. First, you pick cards out of simulated packs, which gives you an option of 1 out of 12 cards to begin with. This pack dwindles to a smaller amount, until you start picking out of a new pack. Then, out of 48 cards, you dwindle that to 45 cards.

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Game economy

  • Hearthstone packs cost 100 gold, which contains 5 cards, and additional value in disenchanting.
  • Eternal packs cost 1000 gold, which contains 12 cards, is guaranteed 100 crafting resource, and additional value in disenchanting.
  • Eternal has a Gem resource, which is the “p2w resource.”
  • Eternal Forges cost 2500 gold, but in addition to the winning prizes, you get to keep all 25 cards you draft. The same is applied to Draft, except in a much bigger scale, as you pay 5000 gold for entry.
  • Eternal Gauntlet is free, and appears to be the best resource-generating valve for players.
  • Quests are more generous in Eternal, as you are given many packs for quests and first wins. You can even win preconstructed decks in some quests.

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Latest Arena Scoop with Hafu and Mike Donais

Latest Arena Scoop with Hafu and Mike Donais

One year ago, I first reported on some Hearthstone Arena insights, thanks to top player Hafu and game designer Mike Donais playing Arena on Twitch. I became aware of another co-op that went on yesterday, which can be seen here. As a dedicated Arena player, any of these insights are especially juicy and interesting. I watched the co-op to pick up on any incoming news coming to Arena. The following declarations are not official, but come from now Principal Game Designer Mike Donais, so that for what it’s worth.

Vicious Fledgling out

Arguably one of the most snowbally cards in Arena history, Vicious Fledgling, is going to be on a banlist coming next patch. It definitely is not the best card in the rare pool when you look at wins, but it definitely was not a fair card. The card won’t be gone entirely, as it will come up in Discover/Random Effects/Transform. I for one will be glad to see it go, as the bad moments seem to come up much more than the good ones.

Mage is mid-tier

Mages got a subpar set of cards in KFT. Their best Arena card is a 3-mana 3/4. This coupled with microadjustments, has knocked Mage to being the 5th-best Arena class. Definitely an unfamiliar position for the class. While you’ll still run into those who have constant answers and board clears, the ones who don’t get victimized more in the low-win pool.

Speed mode?

Never cared for slow Hearthstone play. When asked about the possibility of a speed mode, Mike Donais mentioned that the team has tested it out. He mentioned there were problems with dragged out effects, and mobile play.

A card like Dinomancy

In the background noise of Blizzard HQ, there seemed to be a social gathering going on where Mike was playing Arena. There was laughter (not Brode), and people talking loudly, but indiscriminately. In this, Mike mentioned that Iksar was talking about a card that had a similar effect as Dinomancy. Dinomancy is predictably one of those cards that never went anywhere, is just for fun.

Auto-squelch

Mike Donais squelched every opponent in the run, something I am starting to do more of. He personally is a fan of implementing that feature for Hearthstone, but I have a feeling that decision isn’t up to him.

Robot drafts

Were synergy picks made to specifically combat Arena drafting tools? Hafu and Mike faced a few players who had amazing decks, but made a lot of bad plays. The subject of “robot drafts” came up, in how seemingly players have amazing decks everywhere, sometimes not matching up to skill. Mike mentioned synergy picks meaning to throw a wrinkle to the robot drafts.

Arena patch timing

The next patch, which would get rid of synergy picks, Vicious Fledgling, and possibly more, isn’t coming in the “next week or two.” Mid October or later October?

OP Death Knights

An Arena complaint that shows up every so often are Death Knights, which can swing the game right back in the favor of a player. A big-time “blue shell play.” Mike didn’t imply that Death Knights were leaving Arena, or were planned to do so yet.

Stream of Consciousness: Hearthstone HCT Disconnects

Stream of Consciousness: Hearthstone HCT Disconnects

I’ve always been a skeptic regarding the sustainability and success of esports. It sounded really cool for a while, and I often joked that I should “drop everything and play games for a living.” Reality sank in, and continues to when you see esports teams disbanding all the time, or dropping their teams. Esports teams remind me of old automakers. Did you know there used to be hundreds of automakers? Now you can mostly name them in minutes. They don’t make Mercury and Oldsmobiles anymore!

A couple days ago, I went to an ASUS Republic of Gamers event to try to win free stuff. Notable esports host Rachel “Seltzer” Quirico was there, playing Overwatch and announcing the raffle. It was cool, I got to play Overwatch on a really fancy gaming rig. I got to sit on a gaming chair. I won a pillow. But in the middle of a busy electronics store, not a lot of people stopped by. Even the raffle itself was like 10 people vying for the grand prize. Which makes my not winning it feel worse… But even the ASUS employee asked if I was going to the ESL at Barclays Center, and my response was, “what game are they playing?” Is esports here in New York? Not sure.

In the realm of Hearthstone esports, my views have always been colored by RNG, not other problems. Once Yogg-Saron decided a game, all bets were off. The “anything can happen” aspect of Hearthstone isn’t the best vehicle for something important. It could be fun and spectacular, but fairly back-breaking to those who ultimately work for nothing.

The focus of this weekend, the 2017 Americas Summer Playoffs were mainly disconnects. This one is a doozie.

Here is something from Twitter:

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Here is something from Reddit:

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Blizzard at least acknowledged the problems:

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If the internet gets everyone riled up enough, this seems like a big disaster. There could be some fixes down the line, but what if it isn’t enough.

Some practical ideas on how to fix it:

  • In-game tournament mode.

I’m just being a troll by mentioning this, and I don’t know if it will come. I don’t know if the game is built for it. I don’t know if it is worth the money to develop. I’m just going to assume this isn’t coming, and look for other solutions.

  • Scrap the current Innkeeper system and hold them at bigger venues.

The Innkeeper makes the tournament experience seem grassroots and is definitely very flavorful. It helps build human relationships in a digital game. But in the end, is it worth it? The problems associated with this weekend in Hearthstone esports could likely have been avoided. I mentioned the Barclays Center earlier, where they are playing CS:GO at ESL. They have concerts there. It will definitely have the capacity for an esports tournament. Internet problems seem to be an issue of 1) not having strong enough wireless fidelity and capacity (sorry I don’t know the tech words), 2) not having enough manpower to build/strategize/create better, 3) not having enough money to build something better.

Remember when Buffalo Wild Wings was a bit of a meme? That actually turned out quite decently, and people at those venues didn’t have disconnection issues. I don’t think it was luck that Buffalo Wild Wings had good enough internet. They have standards for quality, and can afford it.

  • Force everyone to play on a wired connection.

Earlier in the year when I had a job, I had college student interns. Once when trying to connect a printer, I asked her where the ethernet port was on the printer. She didn’t know what it was, responding, “I’ve had WiFi all my life.” I was shocked and the moment will likely remain with me forever.

I don’t trust WiFi. I’m not sure if it is because I literally can’t see it or what, but I just don’t believe in it. Not only are your speeds slower, but interference can come from anywhere. Background applications and programs can hog bandwidth. A train could be passing outside and cause a disturbance. I just had to install a WiFi extender, since my room can’t get connect right.

A trusty ethernet cord will eliminate most disconnect problems. Sure, you could have issues with the router/modem. Sure, you could mess up with ethernet in other ways. But having a tenable connection is better than something floating in the air.

The dark truth (NA Internet)

It’s also possible that the problems can never be resolved. Not unlike our healthcare system, the internet in America sucks. Anyone who has paid for internet here knows they aren’t getting a good deal. You have to pay an arm and a leg for internet (and no, I don’t want phone in this day and age), and have to pay a lot after the contract year. Disconnections happen, and they may not resolve for a while. Internet companies are greedy and can do whatever they want. They aren’t regulated too much by the FCC, and the consumer has very little say at all.

Innkeepers may never have the capability to have decent internet, given the poor built environment for it. No matter what upgrades you can make, it will always be shaky footing. While a big venue like the Barclays Center can shoulder the load, costs are costs. I don’t think it is in the cards to borrow a big venue for these Hearthstone esports events.

 

Visualizing the Hearthstone Arena Synergy Picks

Visualizing the Hearthstone Arena Synergy Picks

The Hearthstone Arena is in a weird place now. Untouched for practically 3 years of the game’s existence, the format is now seeing changes here and there. One of the more recent changes, introduced around the time Knights of the Frozen Throne was released, are the synergy picks. Your first 2 picks out of 30 in the Arena all come from a much smaller pool of cards, the synergy pool.

Most people who play Hearthstone don’t care about the new synergies, or don’t know it exists. People seemingly only care about Ranked and even Tavern Brawl, more than Arena. In the minority of Arena players that do care, some people like the new synergy, and others don’t.

It won’t take a gun to my head to have me tell you that I don’t like the new synergy system. I don’t like being forced to pick a mediocre or subpar card, for the chance of a fringe synergy. My game is about tempo, and synergy is just extra. But that didn’t stop me from thinking about these picks, given how pervasive they are in the Arena now. How good are these synergy picks, and across classes?

Methodology

  • I tried to determine how good each synergy pick is, in respect to the class-rarity pool. I used HSReplay.net to find where a card ranked in “Deck winrate,” out of all cards for that class, in that rarity. Deck winrate varies greatly among classes, so I decided to look ranks within class. Rank analysis is used in nonparametric study design, and is not outlandish.
  • I pulled the source of synergy picks from Heartharena. I’m not sure if this list is complete, but from a visual check, it seems correct.
  • I made 3 tables for Synergy Commons, Synergy Rares, and Synergy Epics.
  • Each card received a percentage. This percentage stands for percentile in the class-rarity pool. e.g. The #10 deck winrate card out of 100 will be 10%.
  • I added a color scale on the spreadsheet for visualization. Green is good, yellow is meh, and red is bad.

Assumptions

Misinterpreting or having misleading data is worse than having no data, so let’s make some assumptions before the results:

  • HSReplay data is not representative of everyone – People who track all their games, and have decktracking lists are probably better than the average Hearthstone player. While this doesn’t include very good players who play on their phones, I would assume more casual players don’t use the technology that exists for computers.
  • Deck winrate is not perfect – Far from a perfect metric, but the best we have to evaluate card performance. Bad cards in 12-win drafts and good cards in 0-win drafts get muddled in the metric. This goes into the fact that high-performing decks typically have better cards. But individual player skill, outside of the draft isn’t really taken into account.
  • Intervals between ranks are not uniform – Cards next to each other on the rank aren’t separated equally. Typically, the worst card is really bad, and a few percent worse than the penultimate. You may even have cards with the same exact winrate, but placed arbitrarily on the rank order.
  • Data is dynamic – HSReplay data constantly refreshes, and the free version looks at the last 14 days. To avoid changing data in the dataset for analysis, I did not refresh the page I looked at, to make sure I had a static snapshot for all data used.
  • Statistical power is equal – Power is basically the bigger a sample size, the more reliable the results. In the ranks, I included every card not considered sparse. So the rank of a card played 100,000 times is on the same level as a card played 2,000 times. The card played 2,000 times probably needs more reps to see it’s “true deck winrate.”

Limitations

Also some limitations of this analysis/visualization:

  • No legendaries – Legendary picks make up a good portion of the synergy picks actually. But when looking at the data, there wasn’t enough power to have a definitive denominator for each class. For example, The Voraxx, a synergy legendary, was only picked 360 times in 2 weeks by Hunters. Everyone knows it is horrible by now, and avoids it. With that, I scrapped evaluation of legendaries. Know that Medivh, Kazakus and the DK Heroes are all very good.
  • No sparse data – HSReplay automatically filters out cards that haven’t been played much. This is done primarily to weed out old drafts that include Wild or banned cards. However, picks perceived as bad by the public (and subsequently undrafted) sometimes don’t show up. An example would be Am’gam Rager, which is very seldom drafted by Mages, or Blood of the Ancient One for Druids. While it feels bad to leave out currently draftable cards from the ranks, their lack of statistical power had to be considered. Ultimately, only a few cards were left out for each class, which won’t significantly affect the rankings for the synergy picks .

Synergy pick commons

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  • Rockpool Hunter shows up consistently as a high-ranking deck winrate card, primarily because it serves as 2-drop stability.
  • Primalfin Lookout is the worst neutral common synergy pick, likely because very few Murlocs were found after picking it.
  • Netherspite Historian is actually in the top third of Priest commons, given Dragon synergy.
  • Warlock got some great expansion cards, but the solid synergy pick commons help too. Same for Druid.

Synergy pick rares

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  • Tol’vir Stoneshaper is everywhere, as the 4-mana 3/5 is not backbreaking, being off 1 point. Much better than picking Gadgetzan Auctioneer or Coldlight Seer.
  • Devilsaur Egg performs much better in Warlock, possibly due to Unwilling Sacrifice.
  • Book Wyrm confirms Priest Dragon synergy.
  • Warrior has relatively better ranks in the synergy rares, which could mean their overall card pool is worse compared to the synergy picks.

Synergy pick epics

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  • There are a few relatively safe epic synergy picks in Murloc Warleader, Blazecaller, and Southsea Captain.
  • Blubber Baron is as bad as advertised. Don’t try to make that “synergy” work.
  • The Paladin epic class synergy picks are mostly horrendous.
  • Corpsetaker is predictably best in Paladin, thanks to Divine Shield, but is just the 50th percentile.
  • Warrior has relatively better ranks again in the epic synergy picks. Horrible card pool overall confirmed.

Stream of Consciousness: Hype Should Not Be Fixing Something Broken

It’s 12:30pm here in East Coast, USA, and big news is coming shortly in the world of Hearthstone.

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To those unaware, or not currently playing Hearthstone, there has been a big Druid problem (and Jade Druid, and Aggro Druid). This probably refers to what Ben Brode teased recently:

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The news will break some time in the next few hours, and something will be announced. Something regarding Druid, and perhaps more. Let’s state some things are mostly true:

  1. Druid is busted in it’s current state, for many different reasons.
  2. There are other problems in Hearthstone, with other classes.
  3. The Arena synergy draft system is a disaster.

There’s no denying Druid is a problem in Ranked, and other problems exist. Let’s get to point 2, I think Ice Block is an example of a card that has existed far too long, as it reneges on the “fun and interactive” promise of the game. Some Arena players don’t think 3 is much of an issue, but most are on the train that it sucks. Nobody has to draft Blubber Baron. There’s no reason Frost Lich Jaina appears in 10% of Arenas.

Let me state some other things that are mostly true:

  1. Hearthstone is an amazing game that has kept a lot of players playing it for years.
  2. Hearthstone hype is hyped very well.

Here’s my thought, one that may not be all that original:

Hype should not be invested on things that shouldn’t have been broken to begin with.

I’m really excited about these upcoming announcements today (or announcements of announcements). Even if I have no interest in playing Ranked right now, the news excites me as a Hearthstone player. I want lots of change in a game mode I don’t really play.

But these things shouldn’t be hyped about it. These Druid cards shouldn’t have been allowed to hit the factory floor like they are now. The Arena synergy system shouldn’t have been put in live in it’s current state, without more thought or testing.

I don’t want to be excited about these changes. But there is, for a lack of a better phrase, a hypnotic attraction that Hearthstone has on me that built the hype automatically.

Hype in this game should be spent on announcing new things and content. If this announcement bundles Druid patch changes with a new Ranked laddering system, I take some of it back.

I’m not happy that I will be routinely checking Twitter and Reddit to get on the news today. But I will!

 

Set It All on Fire: A Look at Hearthstone’s Nerf History

Set It All on Fire: A Look at Hearthstone’s Nerf History

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first, Team 5 doesn’t like nerfing cards. They wait a very long time (compared to other games) to make a change. Like it or hate it, that is a core philosophy reciprocated by the devs. With the current KFT Druid continually breaking records, the calls for Druid cards to get the axe grow more vociferous by the day.

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In order to get a sense of when (if) Druid will get a nerf, I decided to look at all the cards that have been nerfed, since the game was officially released post-beta, on March 13, 2014. Wow, I’ve almost played this game 4 years.

It is not a complete science, as older cards get nerfed later on to open up design space, or due to unforseen interactions with newer ones. We can also try to pick out why certain cards were nerfed for what reason.

Release

Unleash the Hounds – 56 days (Release to nerf); 112 days (counting Closed Beta)

  • Unleash has been iterated numerous times in it’s existence, and is honestly a tough one to balance. The 8 weeks to nerf this card from launch is likely one of the fastest nerfs, though the version existed prior in Closed Beta. It was changed to it’s broken form when I started the game.

Curse of Naxxramas

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Eaglehorn Bow – 131 days

  • It wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of people played Mage around this time. The Eaglehorn Bow worked Secrets against the Mage to a weapon buff effect, an ability seen much later in Pirate Warriors.

Leeroy Jenkins – 193 days

  • Culprit of the “fun and interactive” meme, I’m surprised this one took this long. The main target was Shadowstep Rogue, which didn’t use any tools from Naxx, except Loatheb. Also possible the streamers of yore didn’t make decks as fast young kids these days.

Starving Buzzard – 193 days (Release to nerf); 286 (counting Closed Beta)

  • The third Hunter nerf out of four cards nerfed. It makes sense to get rid of the Hunter draw engine, but it is possible removing all of their tools at once would’ve been too much. We’ll never know.

Goblins vs Gnomes

Flare – 266 days

  • Seemingly more help for Mages against the Hunter onslaught. Frankly in retrospect, 1-mana for card draw plus ability is way too cheap. It took 3/4 of a calendar year for this one, and might have to do with nerfing all Hunter toys at once.

Gadgetzan Auctioneer – 266 days

  • This card gets a lot of hate, but it was nerfed in GvG, which put away Miracle Rogue for a while. Leeroy was already out of the equation at this point, and may have been targeting MalyRogue, if it was big then.

Soulfire – 266 days

  • Obviously, this was nerfed because Zoolock was too good. At it’s 1-mana cost, it still sees play (wherever the Warlocks are).

Undertaker – 191 days

  • The first expansion card to get nerfed. And it took over half a calendar year to happen. GvG was one of the most aggressive sets overall, and it took Undertaker over the edge.

Blackrock Mountain

None

The Grand Tournament

Warsong Commander – 586 days (since Release); 201 days (since Grim Patron)

  • This one was big, as it put an end to the most oppressive form of Patron Warrior. It did take 201 days, since Grim Patron came out, but I’m sure the deck didn’t perfect itself overnight.

The League of Explorers

None

Whispers of the Old Gods – All Classic cards (773 days from Release to nerf)

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Ancient of Lore

Force of Nature

Keeper of the Grove

  • The original Druidstone kappa. Ancient of Lore and Keeper of the Grove were cited for auto-inclusion, while Force of Nature was the piece of ForceRoar that took the nerf. Obviously, this long wait was because Druid was never amazing like Hunter, from the beginning.

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Ironbeak Owl

Big Game Hunter

Hunter’s Mark

  • These cards all brought cheap hard removal, making big controlly minions still not be a thing in Hearthstone. Obviously, Hunter did not run Ironbeak Owl back in the day, and it was likely precipitated by all the prior Hunter nerfs. The long wait was definitely a meta call.

Blade Flurry

  • The classic “design space” meme, which was likely brought on by MalyRogue being at it’s peak prior to Old Gods. Blade Flurry was always great against Aggro, and this nerf was likely allowed since Aggro was weakened. It got the double-whammy and remains unplayed.

 

Knife Juggler

Leper Gnome

Arcane Golem

  • Two “Aggro announcers” and a charge-piece. Knife Juggler is the only one that still sees any play at all now, and this was all done to fight Aggro. Good calls all around here, precipitated by meta shifts.

Molten Giant

  • Handlock was once a thing. The patch notes state that this was allowed due to the nerfs to charge cards. Not sure about this one, as Molten Giant remains MIA.

Master of Disguise

  • This one could’ve happened whenever, but was cited for the reason Animated Armor wasn’t neutral. That card never saw play anyways, and this one didn’t either. Oh well, design space.

One Night in Karazhan

Call of the Wild – 160 days

  • This could be the Blizzard Paragon for nerf to broken card “not that long” after expansion. 160 days is not nothing, but is the quickest nerf in some time.

Execute – 935 days

  • Control Warrior in my eyes, was always super boring to play against. Nerfs don’t come for that specific reason, but this one took a really long time to materialize. It still sees play now, so this wasn’t that big a deal.

Rockbiter Weapon – 935 days

Tuskarr Totemic – 406 days; 252 days (since Old Gods)

  • Shamanstone was around since Old Gods, so this was the first response. Tuskarr Totemic didn’t see play until Old Gods, so this year plus wait is misleading.

Abusive Sergeant – 935 days

  • A dying breed! Another Aggro-announcer meets it’s end, cited for being in too many Aggro decks. Abusive Sergeant still exists here and there though.

Charge – 935 days

  • Pirate Warrior sprouted from Old Gods, and this was done to keep that deck in check. It is still alive and well, never really going away to a significant extent.

Yogg-Saron – 160 days

  • Another nerf that was done in fairly short time. It was a bit of a turning point, as random outcomes were never really denounced by Team 5. They were always a positive. The competitive community finally got a win in this battle.

Mean Streets of Gadgetzan

 

Hearthstone Screenshot 01-20-17 00.30.55.png

Small-Time Buccaneer – 91 days

  • Hey look, a rare card to be nerfed within it’s release era. Pretty much a staple for Warrior, Rogue, Shaman, anyone who can hold a weapon. Interesting that the card existed, given the nerfs to all the early Aggro cards. But a fairly timely response here.

Spirit Claws – 203 days

  • A bit overdue. Shamanstone finally ended with this nerf, but it was a long wait.

Journey to Un’Goro

The Caverns Below – 97 days

  • The controversial nerf that everyone was okay with in the end. I don’t think many at all, Rogue mains included, liked playing Quest Rogue. The source of contention, for me at least, is the explanation behind it. If cards that are not fun to play against get nerfed, a whole lot of Mage cards should fit the bill.

Best case scenario?

Recently, Small-Time Buccaneer and The Caverns Below were nerfed within their expansion windows, 91 and 97 days after, respectively. Call of the Wild and Yogg-Saron saw nerfs 160 days after release. Overperformers like Ultimate Infestation, Spreading Plague, and Crypt Lord are the targets here. It is useless to do this exercise for Innervate, as it would have the longest gap between nerfs ever, if it were to see a change. Unleash saw the shortest gap ever at 56 days, but it being the first nerf ever, we can’t rely on that timeline.

And just for those who have made it this far, Knights of the Frozen Throne has only been out 21 days. Unless this current Druidstone is so spectacular! that it causes a nerf never before seen.

Wailing Soul(7758) Gold.png

Top-performing cards in the early Frozen Throne Arena meta

Top-performing cards in the early Frozen Throne Arena meta

Unlike Ranked, the Arena meta in Hearthstone typically doesn’t shift much during an expansion. People figure out which cards are good when they are released, and they are typically right on most of the evaluations. Through personal experience playing cards, a few cards will be reevaluated. Take Knights of the Frozen Throne for example. Upon the reveal of Bonemare, I think everyone knew it would be a top-3 Arena neutral for the set. The card will always be premium, probably until it gets rotated out of Standard.

The new Arena meta, or the so-called “Synergy Meta,” is a bit different, and we have seen upheavals from the previous power pyramid. I decided to look at the top cards from the new set for each class, and use that as a gauge to see how the class is doing.

Methodology

  • I went to hsreplay.net to look at Arena cards by deck winrate.
  • I sorted new cards to look at neutrals, and by-class.
  • I ranked each top-performing card by where they stand in the class card pool.

Top class card comparison

Gnash(62955).png

Gnash your teeth if you draft this, but don’t beat yourself up.

Druid

  1. Ultimate Infestation – 60.6% WR, #1 Druid card
  2. Malfurion the Pestilent – 60% WR, #2 Druid card
  3. Druid of the Swarm – 59.2% WR, #3 Druid card
  4. Fatespinner – 58.5% WR, #4 Druid card
  5. Webweave – 58.4%, t5 Druid card

If by some cruel twist, the main complaint of Ranked Hearthstone is also the best Druid class card for Arena. It is a new Arena development, as Druid was never top shelf in the format. The top Druid class cards all being new cards likely has something to do with the class’ rise in the ranks.

Play Dead(62891).png

The equilvalence of playing dead in arena.

Hunter

  1. Deathstalker Rexxar – 57.7% WR, #1 Hunter card
  2. Venomstrike Trap – 56.5% WR, #17 Hunter card
  3. Abominable Bowman – 55.7% WR, #31 Hunter card
  4. Corpse Widow – 55.7% WR, t31 Hunter card
  5. Professor Putricide – 55.5% WR, #34 Hunter card

Unlike other classes, Hunter doesn’t rely on card quality, rather playing the Aggro game to be faster than others. The new cards from this expansion weren’t too impressive relative to the Hunter class toolkit.

Glacial Mysteries(62869).png

Frankly a mystery why anyone would draft this.

Mage

  1. Frost Lich Jaina – 60.1% WR, #1 Mage card
  2. Sindragosa – 57.1% WR, #15 Mage card
  3. Coldwraith – 56.8% WR, #20 Mage card
  4. Ghastly Conjurer – 56.6% WR, #33 Mage card
  5. Breath of Sindragosa – 55.8% WR, #40 Mage card

How the mighty have fallen. The top two class cards for Mage are legendaries, but Frost Lich Jaina gets a decent boost (9.4% of all Arena Mages) from the synergy pick system. The Mage toolkit was lousy for the new set, with a couple of unplayable epic spells, and this helped bring the class down a bit. There were no “bomb spells.” Coldwraith is good, but everything else pales in comparison to the spells from Un’Goro and before.

Light's Sorrow(61833).png

This card is sad. Don’t draft it.

Paladin

  1. Uther of the Ebon Blade – 60.7% WR, #4 Paladin card
  2. Righteous Protector – 60% WR, #12 Paladin card
  3. Bolvar, Fireblood – 58.4% WR, #29 Paladin card
  4. Dark Conviction – 58.1% WR, #32 Paladin card
  5. Arrogant Crusader – 58% WR, #34 Paladin card

To show the quality of Paladin cards in Arena, Righteous Protector is just #12, and it is as good as it gets for a 1-drop. A lot of lackluster cards, but everything is overpowered to keep the class great. Note the reduction of Stonehill Defender, which makes it a must-pick draft rare.

Archbishop Benedictus(62856).png

This can be countered by blind drafting kappa.

Priest

  1. Shadowreaper Anduin – 59.4% WR, #1 Priest card
  2. Obsidian Statue – 55.4% WR, #20 Priest card
  3. Shadow Ascendant – 55.3% WR, #23 Priest card
  4. Embrace Darkness – 54.1% WR, #34 Priest card
  5. Spirit Lash – 54% WR, #35 Priest card

Seeing a trend here, yes the Death Knight heroes remain quite good. Obsidian Statue is a good card, but costing 9 likely has something to do it being just 20th best. Shadow Ascendant might be better in classes with more aggressive early game as well. Everything else is mediocre.

Leeching Poison(61821).png

A leech in your draft card quality.

Rogue

  1. Plague Scientist – 59.8% WR, #14 Rogue card
  2. Bone Baron – 59.7% WR, #16 Rogue card
  3. Shadowblade – 59.6% WR, #17 Rogue card
  4. Lilian Voss – 59.4% WR, #21 Rogue card
  5. Spectral Pillager – 58.4% WR, #36 Rogue card

It seems Death Knight Valeera is more of a Constructed build-around than Arena card. But, the Rogue got Plague Scientist, Bone Baron and Shadowblade, all decent cards to keep the class afloat. The class card kit is still spectacular, and the new cards don’t particularly hurt the class standing.

Moorabi(62845).png

Moorabi? More like, uh, Moo-don’t-draft-this.

Shaman

  1. Thrall, Deathseer – 54.2% WR, #17 Shaman card
  2. Brrrloc – 53.7% WR, #25 Shaman card
  3. Avalanche – 53.3% WR, #31 Shaman card
  4. Voodoo Hexxer – 52.8% WR, #41 Shaman card
  5. Snowfury Giant – 51.9% WR, #48 Shaman card

Shaman was definitely in the lower third in Un’Goro, and the new freeze class identity shift decelerated any Arena movement it had. I mean, the top class common/rare is Brrrloc, with a low winrate. Thrall, Deathseer seems solid in Constructed, where it might be easier to hold the board than in Ranked. The hero does nothing on an empty board. I expected Voodoo Hexxer to be one of the better cards, but that doesn’t appear to be the case right now. If the synergy pick is working correctly, Thrall, Deathseer should be offered 2x higher, like Frost Lich Jaina.

Howlfiend(62894).png

How to mill your deck in arena without clearing the board.

Warlock

  1. Bloodreaver Gul’dan – 59.9% WR, #1 Warlock card
  2. Despicable Dreadlord – 59.5% WR, #3 Warlock card
  3. Defile – 57.5% WR, #17 Warlock card
  4. Drain Soul – 56.5% WR, #30 Warlock card
  5. Gnomeferatu – 56.4% WR, #32 Warlock card

Arena Warlock was always fun in my book, and now is the time to reap. Some new ridiculous toys were added to the toolkit, and Bloodreaver Gul’dan (10.2%!) is seeing an offering bonus thanks to the synergy picks. Despicable Dreadlord is a stud. Defile will give humanities majors fits, but efficient board clear. The class has moved up a good deal.

Dead Man's Hand(62842).png

Literally a dead man or woman in arena because you drafted this.

Warrior

  1. Scourgelord Garrosh – 56.8% WR, #1 Warrior card
  2. Blood Razor – 52.1% WR, #12 Warrior card
  3. Forge of Souls – 52% WR, #13 Warrior card
  4. Mountainfire Armor – 51.3% WR, #16 Warrior card
  5. Val’kyr Soulclaimer – 49.3% WR, #37 Warrior card

The Arena doghouse class is still there. A lot of the cards had the “Whirlwind theme” which is more of a Constructed build around, than being good for Arena. Ravaging Ghoul is good since it fits being a 3-drop. Overcosted 5’s and 4’s aren’t that good. Maybe a fun challenge for good Arena players.

Wretched Tiller(62946).png
Funny voicelines but wretched pick.

Neutrals

  1. The Lich King – 59.9% WR
  2. Bonemare – 59.3% WR
  3. Keening Banshee – 58.8% WR
  4. Hyldnir Frostrider – 58.3% WR
  5. Deathspeaker – 57.9% WR

The Lich King is just OP and should be drafted over almost every legendary. You can make an exception for Death Knight heroes maybe, and a few good ones. The neutrals and rares on this list all are over-stated, or buff other minions to help preserve the board.

There you have it. Just by looking at class card rankings, you can estimate where the class is in the new Arena meta. Look forward to checking more data and numbers as the Arena meta keeps on moving.